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Lasers have become a major part of our day-to-day lives.

From phones and tablets to and data communication—even the information you're reading right now is likely being delivered to you via lasers.

The technology's applications are so broad even the researchers who deal with lasers daily are continuously amazed.

Among them is University of Queensland Research Fellow Dr. Martin Plöschner from the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE).

"I've been working with lasers for the past 15 years and yet I'm often surprised to find them in the most unexpected places," Dr. Plöschner said.

"In many of their applications, lasers operate in part of the spectrum which is invisible to our eyes.

"And what the eyes can't see, the mind often doesn't know about.

"If lasers operated more in the visible part of the spectrum, the world around us would be a magnificent laser show."

One such hidden application of lasers is optical —where laser light zips through optical fibers to deliver information.

But the ever-increasing demand for faster and more frequent access to data is pushing optical fiber networks around the world to their limit—the so-called "capacity crunch."

Dr. Joel Carpenter from UQ's ITEE said the laser light pulses relayed along the glass or plastic fibers travel at different speeds and can overlap, slowing down the process.

"Imagine yelling to a friend through a long concrete pipe," Dr. Carpenter said. "Your message will distort depending on how much the pipe echoes, and you'll also have to wait for the echoes to die down from one message before you can send the next.

"It's a similar problem in large groups of computer servers, with the amount of echo dependent on the shape and color of the lasers being launched into the ."

Measuring the properties of lasers is vital to making improvements, but there has been no method to fully capture this complexity.

Until now.

To read more, click here.

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